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Fishing Report for the Florida Panhandle

Capt. Alex Crawford
June 14, 2007
Carrabelle - Saltwater Fishing Report


Summertime on the northern Gulf coast south of Apalachicola is the perfect time to do some serious snapper slammin’. All you need is some good wreck numbers and a positive mental attitude. Two of the best old shrimp boat wrecks for snappers are the Gilmore and the Angela. These numbers are published widely in the public domain.

The trick is to go out early, so you can get anchored correctly before other anglers arrive. Trick number two is to have plenty of precut, fresh chunk baits. In order of preference, try cigar minnows, pogies, hardtails and goggle eyes. Buying frozen bait in case sizes will save a few bucks. With the obnoxious prices for on-the-water gas, a few bucks here and there can go in the gas tank. Or you can always sabiki up your bait and/or cast net what you need. Pogies are prevalent now, if you are out right after first light. Try just south of the Apalachicola River bridge. Right now the dolphins are all over them. One caveat about cast netting around this bridge. Do not let your net fall all the way to bottom. Two things can happen, both bad. One is you may hang up on a submerged tree snag or even worse, you may bring your net up full of hard head catfish. Either result is the same, you have lost your net.

Yesterday, coming back up into the mouth of the river, I passed a 40 foot telephone pole that had been washed down the river due to the previous night’s heavy rain. Be aware of large floating objects. I call this stuff, things that go bump in the night. A collision with a full blown telephone pole will probably sink you or just simply extract your lower units from your motors. I call that one the six thousand dollar accident, unless you have a special relationship with your insurance carrier. It is prudent to have ALL crew members on a constant lookout for these floating dangers, including crab traps. Your props have a hard time turning while wrapped up in half inch polypropylene ski line attached to crab traps.

One of the most important elements of success for wreck snappers is good current. The faster the water is moving horizontally, the better the snapper fishing. When the current slows or stops, break out lunch and take a short break until the water starts to move again.

When you anchor over an old shrimp boat wreck, first check your bottom machine and see where the fish are oriented to the wreck. Mark the fish with a high quality marker buoy and then anchor up wind/current from your marker. Before you start chunk baiting or fishing, be sure to retrieve you marker buoy. This will save you the headaches of having a big shark or kingfish tangle you up in your buoy. Trust me on this one, get your marker buoy back in the boat and stowed.

Start slowly by pitching a few chunk baits overboard and, from a vantage point high up on the boat, watch as the chum sinks. What you want to see is a school of red and mangrove snappers swimming up and competing for the bait. Or, a solitary sow snapper moving back and forth eating your chum. The largest snappers are most susceptible to this technique. The smaller short fish will likely be on the bottom or suspended close to the wreck. It is common for the surface feeding fish to average 5 to 8 pounds with an occasional 15 to 20 pounder thrown in just to keep you on your toes. When you see twenty pounders cruising in your private aquarium, it is difficult to remain calm.

Two other critical parts of this technique: Your hooks must be completely hidden (buried) in the cut baits. (use 4/0 hand sharpened live bait hooks or Owner circle hooks). Fluorocarbon leaders (30#) and small barrel swivels are necessary because snappers see so well. Twenty pound spinning tackle is about right, even for larger specimens. Your baits MUST fall at the same speed as your chunk baits;snapper are smart. Throw a few over, then your cut bait in on top of the chunks. Watch the line with an open bail, it will run out super fast on a bite.

Sharks are a nuisance on wrecks. They will tear up your tackle and scare off the snappers. They come and go and so will the snappers. Be patient! Stop chumming for a while, sometimes they will swim away. They usually do not eat your fish off the hook like barracudas do.

For quality bait and tackle visit Fisherman’s Choice Bait and Tackle store in East Point or farther west try Half Hitch Tackle in Port St. Joe. These retail stores are very customer friendly and stock all of your fishing needs. They talk to fishermen everyday and are always up on what’s biting.

One of the important things to remember with flat lining snappers is that you will catch bigger fish and many will be mangroves. Now that the regs are reduced for red snappers, targeting mangroves will allow for a larger catch. Mangroves are just as big and fight just as hard and eat just as well as their red cousins. So, what’s not to like! In fact, mangroves may be even harder to trick into biting because they are so wary. So, in terms of a sporting challenge, one can argue that gray snappers are superior to red snappers. What do you think? Email captainalex@gtcom.net.

Summer is high season for snapper slammin’. You can have loads of fun watching big sows inhale your baits. You can cast to individual fish because the water is so clear offshore. Even the flyrodders can get in the game. It is a tough pull, but certainly an achievable proposition. Get out there on the big pond and get a line wet!

Till next tide, tight lines and solid hookups,

Captain Alex Crawford

Website: www.topknots.com Home phone: (850) 697-8946

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Captain Alex Crawford is a full time guide who has fished the Florida Panhandle offshore for 26 years. He specializes in grouper and snapper trips with light tackle on live bait. Custom trips for companies with multiple boats will be arranged. Inshore trips targeting specific species and custom eco trips are available for birding, gator watching, shelling, picnics and barrier islands. Contact Captain Alex for a fun and productive trip on Florida's Forgotten Coast.

Contact Info:

Topknots Charters
P. O. Box 1029
Carrabelle, FL 32322
Phone: 850-697-8946
Alt. Phone: same
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